Jew’s Harps in European Archaeology

Gjermund Kolltveit


The subject of this monograph is the archaeology of the jew’s harp in Europe. It is based on archaeological finds collected from various sources and compiled into a database. This compilation – which is appended as a Catalogue – is itself a major part ofthe work, connected as it is to the main aim of documenting the finds and thus contributing to an understanding of the early period of the jew’s harp in Europe. The first chapter consists of an introduction to the jew’s harp and to music archaeology as afield of research. It also has a descrAtion of how information on the various finds in the database was collected. The second chapter is about technology. Knowledge of the way the instruments were made and the materials used to make them allows one to dig beneath the surface, to understand the makers’ intentions and capabilities. Simply observing without asking why the objects look like they do cannot really lead us a deeper understanding of the instrument. Chapter three, which considers the typology ofthe harps, builds on the approach developed in the preceding chapter. The chapter starts with a general discussion of typology and classification because these concepts provide the basis of the work. Chapter four, on distribution, discusses the distribution of the finds in Europe, and how the production and trade of the items were organized. Chapter five discusses the contexts of the finds – i.e., their archaeological setting and, in a wider perspective, their social and cultural significance. The Catalogue concludes the work.